Trusts are a great estate planning tool that allow you to organize how your property should be distributed to your heirs and beneficiaries. Much like a last will and testament, you can use a trust as your instructions on which property goes to whom after your death. However, with a trust, you can also decide when they receive certain property. If there are any issues concerning your trust or any objections to its provisions, then trust litigation may be necessary to resolve those disputes. When that happens, seeking the advice of one of our trust attorneys is a good idea. Even better, follow some of these tips to avoid the need for trust litigation altogether.
Concerns about the capacity of the trustor
Trust litigation is not always a part of administering a trust. However, there are a few issues that may require resolution through the court. Possibly the most common reason is the legal capacity of the trustor. In other words, if there is a concern that the trustor did not have the legal capacity to execute the trust agreement at the time, then the trust may be invalid. Resolving this issue requires the court to make a determination of legal capacity at the time the trust was created and then a final determination regarding the validity of the trust.
Suspicion of coercion or undue influence
If there is any evidence that the trustor was under some undue influence or was coerced in some way to either create the trust or to include certain provisions or beneficiaries, then trust litigation is a likely result. If it can be shown that improper influence or coercion was imposed on the trustor’s free will, then the court may find that the trust is invalid. If you are a trustee dealing with these issues, our trust attorneys can help.
Trustees should communicate with heirs or beneficiaries as necessary
Litigation is more common when there are heirs or beneficiaries who have certain expectations about their inheritance that are not realized. Occasionally, when people find out they were either disinherited or they will not receive what they expected, there may be a dispute. Often, resolving that dispute will require litigation. One way that a trustor can avoid this issue is to discuss their intentions with family and other loved ones ahead of time so there won’t be any surprises.
Carry out your duties properly
The best way to avoid litigation for a trustee is to be sure to carry out all of your duties in a responsible and honest way. That involves providing an accounting to beneficiaries. When managing trust property, the trustee needs to be transparent so there will be no accusations of mismanagement. Always maintain detailed and organized records of everything related to the trust property.
Try to anticipate potential issues
When there are certain assets or trust provisions that you anticipate will become an issue, then steps can be taken to head off those issues. There may also be a particular beneficiary who is more likely to cause problems for the trustee. If you take these issues into consideration ahead of time you may be better able to avoid trust litigation.
Avoiding trust litigation
Like most court proceedings, trust litigation can be costly and take several months or longer to resolve. For those reasons, it is usually best to avoid the need for trust litigation. As a trustee, the best way to do that is to take certain steps to prevent certain issues from arising. If you carry out your duties as a trustee properly, you can eliminate the need for litigation, or at least reduce the chance. As a trustor, be careful in creating your trust so there will not be any basis for challenging it. Make the terms of your trust agreement as clear as possible. This is where our trust attorneys can help.
If you can’t avoid trust litigation let our trust attorneys help
Trust litigation is a very specialized court proceeding and it is best to have the assistance of one of our trust attorneys, who are very experienced in litigation. In most cases, trust litigation will involve the filing of various petitions with the court. For example, there may be issues involving capacity, undue influence, creditor’s claims, or probate issues. Litigating all of these various claims can be complicated, so you need trust attorneys with sufficient experience and knowledge of the laws governing trusts.
If you have questions regarding trusts, trust litigation, or any other estate planning matters, please contact the experienced attorneys at Gaughan & Connealy for a consultation. You can contact us either online or by calling us at (913) 262-2000. We are here to help!